Visiting a "soulful" neighbor… Tx

Monday, December 8th, 2008

So we are obviously still here.  Spirit also, no, I did not disown him! Yet… Even though this morning he did not want to play ball! Kind of took me by surprise, and then again after reading what he wrote and receiving more comments and e mails than I do… I should not be. I think I will keep a close eye on him from now on. His mind must be busy with all his pals that have replied to him and I know he wants to thank them all. We took a run into Big Bend Park, down Old Maverick Road which is a nightmare as in “washboard central”, turned around and checked “Croton Springs Rd” and “Paint Gap Rd”. Elevation at the end, or almost the end of Old Maverick Rd as you make a right to reach “Terlingua Abajo” is only 2200 feet. Meaning “warmer”… The elevation when reaching “Croton Springs Rd” or “Paint Gap” jumped up to around 3400 to 3800 feet. Meaning, as it has been lately below freezing during the night, specially in the very early morning hours, “cold”. So I am not doing well with the cold, not doing well with severe washboard roads… we end up instead experiencing an overdue visit with our neighbor John, just a few miles down the road. I also need to modify certain aspects regarding carrying our water and extra fuel on the rig, need a bit of time to work on those logistics. Excuses…


John writes in his Blog that I am his “Hero”, I write in my Blog that “he” is my Hero! I have finally realized the incredible difference between being a “visitor” here, even if you camp out for a few months as have done in the past, and “living” here as we do now till warmer weather enable us to switch gear and head north. There is an amazing “individuality” amongst the few residents that have mushroomed throughout the valleys and the peaks making up this beautiful landscape. No two “dwellings” are alike, no two Lifestyles, no one even dresses like each other as you might see in the big city subways as the three piece suits are a dime a dozen.

cabin b

We here have the freedom to extend our individuality into the dwelling we choose to live in, or not and do with the bare minimum as us. We have one important facet in common however, it is the “respect” for each other which trickles down into a path of helping each other, doing for each other and in my case, admiring what others have done, doings such as John’s. It is not what I would do… He would not do what I would either… but underneath all this unimportant in a sense “material” standings, we both and so many others have the Love for the ground with step on, the hills that surrounds us, the days and by its contrast the nights wether they are pitch black or lit by the moon enlarged through its eternal cycle.

john's place 

Living here is not just living, it is “feeling”. It is raw, it is hard, it demands planning and discipline and discomfort at times. It is however its jagged edges that will bring out the inner layers that makes us who we really are as there is no facade that can withstand this environment. We cannot hide here, we cannot let the World around us go by on its own and take care of us, we here have to take care of the World around us and make it generous to us so we can survive the time spend waiting for the prize at the end of this path. And what is the “Prize”?

cabin a

There is no one prize, there are as many prizes as individuals that have embraced this Lifestyle a bit off the beaten path. My own prize is within, an ascent toward a Life that maybe will shed a bit of clarity on the past and the present, toward a Life where maybe the skies can remain blue and the storms subside or maybe even allow me to shelter my emotions with better strength. One day at the time, as long as the “awareness” is present the steps will be upward, one moment at the time reaching deep into the soul to brighten the spirituality surrounding me.

cabin c 

John is a good man and I look for him behind his sunglasses and beard only to find this kind soul, thoughtful and reaching deep into his own individuality. He is funny when he writes that we look alike… exterior, a book cover, it is all appearances as I would hope everyone would look deeper into what and who faces them. We are just on different paths. He celebrated his first year anniversary here, full time, yesterday, and there is so much that he has done, so interesting for someone like me who has never done anything else in their Life but cook! Above is the outdoor shower, water heated by the sun. Being a stage prop builder he has set up himself everything that you see here, except for the shipping containers that he purchased, an idea on which I am copying including a future slanted roof.


shipping containers  

Water catchments, and more water catchments as he plans to grow his own food and have some goats and chickens roaming around. He even build a dam to fill one of his tanks, a bit further away on his property which is about 40 acres right now.


Much solar and turbine wind power! Right now only two and two more will be up soon. The little structure below on the left of the turbines houses the batteries and the shiny new garbage can has a heat element that will warm up water with the excess electricity! Very impressed… like a big kid playing with his big grown up toys… useful ones, one day at the time.

wind turbines a

wind turbines b  

His space is “the Field Lab” and he is almost done with his solar oven which yesterday did reach 200 degrees, some insulation and a couple reflective panels will do the trick, I send him already a couple recipes! The Field Lab also adorns an exterior compost toilet for everyone’s comfort and sanity, John is a busy man.

solar oven the john

The best part, for me anyhow, was yet to come. His backyard as this is where “I” would be spending all my time, and amazingly he told me that he had purchased the land without even seeing his “Mini Canyon” and… “Grand Canyon”. This is were Mother Nature does her work on rainy days, carving, coloring and exposing delicately her vegetation as on the walls of a well known gallery.

mini canyon c

mini canyon e  
  mini canyon d

This is without a doubt a piece of land I could grow to be envious of, this is were I would live on dry days in this “Mini Canyon”. I probably will never get to witness its flash floods as his 2 mile road inland is not all weather passable and itself turns into mash within a short time. I know its sight should be so incredible, the natural forces at work ever changing the landscape of it all.

mini canyon g

mini canyon h  
hanging branch fossile

And finally one reaches the “Grand Canyon”, not as intimate, maybe some day we will hike it if John invites us over again as… I hope he does! This is not Terlingua… this is not Big Bend or Alpine, this is “our desert”, this is our therapy that will make us who we are. Mother Nature, Neighbors and Friends together in the pursuit of happiness and sanity in this World of ours which so often I wonder about its uncertain outcome. Thank you John for allowing us to witness your space as maybe others will themselves embrace this positive Lifestyle.

grand canyon

Last night as the moon made its presence with its halo, my humor after taking this photo made me certain that I had also witnessed the Space Station right above us as I waived to them…


Till next time!

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Two years of Photography is finally in order on SmugMug… In “Your Favorites”, in “States”, some labeled “first year” and second year”, now also “Texas the third year”. Feel free to browse, you can even use the slide show mode and have fun.

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Be well, always.   Ara & Spirit

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6 Responses to “Visiting a "soulful" neighbor… Tx”

  1. John Wells Says:


    I couldnt have said it any better myself…..thanks for the great comments about my Field Lab….and the fantastic photos! You and Spirit are welcome anytime over on my side of the paradise we share.

  2. Tjaard Says:

    as an architect i’m very interested in the “green” buildings of John and also the ather types of architecture you photograph. I also tend to work corrugated sheeting into my architecture – not getting many clients around here that like it though. The area you live in could just as well have been in Augrabies-Kakamas in the Northern Province of South Africa or Namibia about 1000km from where i currnetly live……..LOVE IT!!!!!!

  3. JamesTexas Says:

    Cool, thanks for taking us along

  4. Sandra B Says:

    Really enjoyed this one!



  5. Belinda Salinas Says:

    I was very impressed with John’s set up and even more so that he built it by himself. It is interesting to me how people live and survive in such harsh climates away from the creature comforts that many of us are used to. Thanks.

  6. Dani Says:

    Ara – Think I agree with JW – there is a similarity between you two 🙂 You have taken amazing photo’s – absolutely brilliant.

    Also, thank you for showing (me) parts of The Field Lab not seen thus far.

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